Social media is an online world that is growing exponentially. Since 2017, the global number of social media users has grown from nearly 2.9 billion to 3.6 billion in 2020 (over a 25% increase!), and is projected to grow to 3.78 billion in 2021. By 2025, it is estimated that there will be 4.41 billion social media users worldwide – this would account for nearly 54% of the world’s population. In the United States, these percentages are event greater: 81% of Americans have at least one social media account.
For businesses, social media is not only a valuable tool, but a necessity for maintaining and growing your audience, customer base, and brand’s reputation. As more users look online to learn about businesses, the importance of a strong social media presence grows. Not only do users expect to find businesses on popular social media sites, but these platforms can prove vital for growing your audience, establishing a clear brand identity, and building loyalty and trustworthiness with your customers.
Here, we’ll outline the benefits of a social media strategy for your business and take a closer look at some of the most popular social media platforms and how to get the most out of your profiles.
Benefits of Using Social Media to Promote Your Business
There are several reasons why social media should be a key element of your business’ online marketing strategy:
- It’s free! It may seem obvious, but one of the biggest benefits of social media for businesses, particularly smaller businesses or startups, is that it doesn’t have to cost anything. Of course, many social media platforms have paid advertising or marketing options, but for businesses experiencing budget limitations or just beginning to develop a social media strategy, a free profile is a great place to start. Additionally, while social media paid advertising can yield positive results, according to a study conducted by Sherpa Marketing, more users follow brands on social media than celebrities – use this to your advantage!
- Social media platforms are familiar to users. With billions of users logging on to social media platforms every day, establishing your business on these platforms can increase your audience reach. Users already understand how to navigate popular social media platforms, so they know what to expect regarding the format of the site, and can find information about your business quickly.
- You can find your business’ voice. Social media allows you to connect directly with your customers, and the format of social media platforms can help you bring out your brand’s voice. Connecting with industry-relevant communities, engaging in conversation surrounding your brand, and establishing rapport online can also help to boost brand loyalty and accessibility to your business’ current and prospective customers.
- And improve your SEO. A strong social media presence and strategy can increase traffic to your website, which can have a positive impact on your business’ overall SEO.
- Discover relevant trends. Staying up-to-date on industry trends, monitoring which of your posts receive the most engagement, and noting what works for your competitor online can all help you refine your own online strategy and ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward.
- Refine content marketing strategy. Content is vital to developing a strong online presence. Not only can you get ideas for content topics from conversations on social media, but social media platforms are a great way to share content and establish your business as a thought leader in your industry.
Social Media Overview: How to Make the Most of Your Profiles
While social media platforms have differences between them, there are some best practices that are relevant to (nearly) all social media platforms. Here are our top four general social media tips:
- Establish your social media strategy beforehand: social media is only helpful to your business when used well, so don’t move forward until you have a plan. Consider what your username should be, which profile picture you want to use across platforms, and what kind of content you want to share.
- Build out your profiles fully: once you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a social media profile, build it out as much as you can. Make sure you have an identifiable username (consistent across all platforms), a profile picture, and that any informational sections are filled out. The more information you can include about your business, the stronger your profile will be.
- Post consistently: make sure that you have the capacity to keep every social media profile you have active. Sparse or out-of-date profiles often deter users, and won’t do much to improve your business’ visibility or overall SEO. Establish a posting strategy or schedule to keep things running smoothly.
- Engage with your audience: one of the key aspects of social media is accessibility to your audience. Responding to customers and engaging in industry-related conversations can help grow your network, expand your business’ reach, and help you establish your business as a leader in industry conversations. What’s more, not responding can actually harm your business’ reputation – many prospective customers will take their business elsewhere if a business fails to respond to them.
Social Media Platforms: Recommended Sites for Businesses
Facebook is the most popular social media platform with 2.8 billion users as of February 2021 – over 36% of the world’s population. Facebook is a more general social media platform that allows users to share different kinds of content – images, videos, links, etc. – as well as create groups for certain topics or areas of interest, sell products, and much more.
For Your Business
When creating a presence on Facebook for your business, you can create a business page. These pages are formatted to help businesses highlight key information, such as products or services your business offers, location(s), hours of operation, contact information, etc.
As the most popular social media platform, Facebook gives your business the opportunity to reach a wide and diverse audience – and it’s likely that your audience expects to find your business on Facebook. To make the most of your business’ Facebook profile, make sure all the information is filled out and up-to-date, and post on your page regularly.
YouTube is the second most popular social media platform with nearly 2.3 billion users worldwide as of January 2021. A video-sharing platform, YouTube allows you to post videos, as well as rate, comment, and subscribe to other YouTube channels.
For Your Business
YouTube can be an invaluable asset to businesses, as video is the #1 content marketing strategy online, above written content, images, and infographics. That said, in order to get the most out of your YouTube account, it is important to make high-quality videos relevant to your industry and business, as lower quality content will not benefit your social media strategy, and can actually deter users.
To create high-quality video content, ensure your videos are visually appealing, informative, and relevant to your business and industry. Optimize your video titles and descriptions for the topics you’re covering, and create thumbnails that are dynamic. Longer videos tend to perform better than shorter videos, so take this into account when developing video content.
Linkedin is a professional and career-oriented social media platform where users can post job listings, create profiles for their business, apply for jobs, and share thought leadership or industry-related thoughts and content. Linkedin has nearly 740 million members in over 200 countries worldwide.
For Your Business
Similar to Facebook, Linkedin gives you the opportunity to build a company page for your business. This page includes a description of your business and other key information, such as business size, location, and if you are hiring/what positions you are hiring for. Additionally, you can share company updates, blog posts, and other forms of media on your business’ Linkedin page.
Linkedin can also help you establish your business as a thought leader in your industry. Sharing industry-relevant content on your feed can help boost engagement. Even further, businesses can choose up to three community hashtags on topics relevant to their business to follow and weigh in on.
In addition to housing a business profile and providing your business with another platform to share content, Linkedin can also be an avenue for reaching prospective employees and staying up-to-date on industry-related news and developments.
Instagram just makes it into the top 5 most popular social media platforms with 1.22 billion users worldwide. Instagram is a video- and image-sharing social media platform and, unlike some other social media sites, is accessed primarily by users on mobile devices.
For Your Business
For a business, Instagram can be an invaluable asset. 81% of Instagram users report using the platform to research products and businesses. Even further, 50% of Instagram users have visited a website to make a purchase after seeing a product or service on the platform.
Instagram has several features businesses can utilize, from posts to stories to live videos. You can tag your products in your posts for easy access and, like Linkedin and Twitter, this platform utilizes hashtags.
The most important factor to keep in mind when developing an Instagram strategy for your business is that Instagram is a visual platform, consisting entirely of videos and photos. As a result, you must take the visual capabilities and branding of your business into account, and make sure your images are dynamic and on-brand.
Twitter is a brief content-sharing platform, with a character count that caps at 280 per tweet. As of January 2021, Twitter had 353 million users worldwide. Twitter is great for businesses who want to give brief or real-time updates to customers.
For Your Business
What you share on Twitter will be specific to your business: you can share short blurbs, build out longer Twitter threads, or share videos, images, polls, articles and blog posts, and more. Determining why you want to use Twitter – and what kind of updates you want to give your audience, is key to establishing and maintaining a strong and beneficial Twitter presence. Like Instagram and Linkedin, hashtags can help increase your exposure on the platform.
Twitter can give you great opportunities to reach your audience, but it’s vital to have a clear brand voice and strategy in place when utilizing the platform. While the platform can be an asset for sharing content and perspective or weighing in on relevant conversations, it also gives your customers direct (and public) access to your business.
Quora is a question-and-answer forum, and the 17th most popular social media platform with roughly 300 million users worldwide. The format of the website is simple: users pose questions on anything – okay, pretty much anything – and other users answer those questions to the best of their ability. From simple, fact-seeking questions to more subjective advice-seeking queries, Quora spans a vast array of topics.
For Your Business
Quora can provide your business the opportunity to establish itself as an authority in its industry. By providing thorough, informative answers to industry-relevant questions, you can establish your business as a helpful resource. You can also use the questions asked on the platform to inform content topics for upcoming blog posts or articles, and share those articles as further reading or more thorough answers when answering certain questions.
When building out your business profile, make sure to include a clear description of your business that highlights your credentials relevant to your industry.
Medium is a written content-sharing website, where users can share articles on nearly any topic they choose. While it doesn’t boast the active user counts of some of the most popular social media platforms, with about 60 million users on the site, Medium offers businesses strong content marketing and thought leadership opportunities.
For Your Business
Medium allows you to include up to 5 tags on any piece of content to explain what the piece is about, and connect you with audiences interested in your particular industry or article topic. What’s more, Medium allows you to import your owned content from other online locations to the platform, meaning that if you have an active blog or other publication for your business already, building out your Medium profile will only require you to import pre-existing pieces, allowing you to get more mileage out of each piece of content and giving those pieces a potential boost.
You can also link your Medium profile to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and you will be connected with any users that follow you on those platforms automatically.